Monday, 17 March 2008
On March 5th and 6th, over 150 civil engineers descended on Washington D.C. for ASCE's 8th Annual Policy Week. We had representation from 47 states and over 200 congressional offices were visited. These civil engineering lobbyists were well trained and briefed by ASCE staff and our consultant, Amy Showalter, who provided invaluable tools on how to build relationships with your elected officials.
On a personal note, I visited with the representative in which my business is located, who I've known for over 20 years, as well as the representative for where I live. He served as my County Councilperson and County Executive, and now is in the House of Representatives. The House was having a role call vote voting session, so he was not able to visit with me in his office, but had his staff take me through the tunnels to the U.S. Capital. We met in a room just outside of the House Chamber and discussed many of the transportation issues facing Maryland and Baltimore County. In particular, the base realignment and closure activities will bring 20-30,000 new jobs to Maryland over the next five years. Last year, he was tied up in a committee hearing and was unable to visit with me, but later that evening, he called me and we had a very good discussion. I think this is an example of the kind of relationship that each and every one of us would like to build with our elected officials. We can be a very effective resource for these people by offering our expertise and knowledge. We simply need to meet them and have them understand our viewpoint.
It is unfortunate that all 140,000 members could not participate in the fly-in. But each and every one of you can participate in meeting your representatives in your home state and community. It is just as important to meet with them on their local turf as it is to meet with them in Washington. In fact, you may have more opportunities and time to meet with them in their local District office. I urge all of you to try to participate next year, but if you can't, please make a point of writing a letter or going to meet your Senator or Congressman.
Besides letters or personal visits, what are other ways to effectively get our infrastructure message across to our elected officials? I would be curious to hear your thoughts.